Wednesday, November 6, 2013

TOTALLY off topic... my son's Superhero Birthday Party!

This post is completely off topic but I will make no apologies because I HAVE to blog about my son's 2nd Birthday Party!!! OH MY GOODNESS I AM SO EXCITED!!! Ok- it was a superhero theme (maybe my kid's superhero papers got me in the superhero spirit.. not to mention my adorbs superhero skirt..) and I went full out crafty on this party. It was mainly family but Josh is invited 2 of his boy friends that will be in his grade whose mommas also happen to be my sweet work friends. So total there will be 3 boys and 1 sweet little girl who is Joshua's cousin. They are all close in age so I planned some fun little activities.

I decorated both the inside of the house and the outside. I had originally thought
we would play outside and come in to snack and open presents. I should of known better that once I got my son outside it would be impossible to lure him inside again... so outside went the presents and food!

With the help of pinterest, amazon and oriental trading I think it all came together quiet nicely! Everyone had a really good time and my birthday boy was happy happy happy (...well, most of the time...) !!
My sweetheart superhero -- Joshua James!

Of course I dressed Jason (my husband), Josh and I in matching Superman outfits!

 picture backdrop that I painted!



This superhero ball pit was the biggest hit of the day!!

Each child got a superhero cape that I had made by cutting the backs off of old t-shirts (that way they wear like real shirts with no itcy velcro for the wee ones) and cut the fist initial of their name out of felt and used tacky glue to glue it on their capes! They turned out super cute!! 

This quick bean bag toss station came from cutting up the box all the balls came in from the ball pit and turning it into another fun game for 1-2 year olds!!

Here was where they put on their capes and practiced their "superhero disguise poses" which for this age consisted of just running by it real quick!! But fun for the parents!!

This was just all the normal outside play equipment - a basketball hoop, a slide, and a T-Ball set.

This area was just a chalkboard and on the other side some superhero coloring sheets taped up with some crayons. My little superhero loves to draw!!

Opening presents for the first time! He really wasn't all that into it last year.

Each child got to take home their capes and a handful of superhero bath ducks! :) 

Happy Creating Friends!! 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A New Way to Look at Your Day

Partner teaching is wonderful in many ways- I love only teaching 2 content areas (ELA/Social Studies) but I run into some problems having two classes... especially one in the morning and one in afternoon. My morning class is focused and ready to go, engaged and eager. My afternoon class - after lunch and specials - are sluggish, tired and mentally tapped out (like me)! 

To solve this dilemma my partner teacher and I brainstormed several ways to fight the "afternoon slumps" we were facing. One idea we came up with, tried, and FELL IN LOVE WITH is having all our small group time in the afternoon. This works so beautifully for us because we teach BOTH of our whole classes in the morning - 1 and a half hours each and then go to lunch, specials and come back and do mega small groups. Here is a look at what my schedule looked like before and after we began our mega small groups. 

My Homeroom: BLUE CLASS  
   Second Class: GREEN CLASS

7:30-8:00~ Blue Class comes in, puts away their backpacks and gathers their materials and goes to math. Green class comes in, eats breakfast, does warm-up, restroom. Announcements.
8:00-9:15~ Whole Class teach Green Class. 
9:20-10:20~ Small Group time with Green Class. 
10:20-10:25~ Clean up/Restroom/Switch Classes 
10:35-10:55~ RECESS
11:05-11:35~ LUNCH
12:50-1:55~ Whole Class teach Blue Class. 
1:55-2:50~ Small Group time with Blue Class.
2:55-3:10~ Pick Up/Pack Up/Get ready to go home. 

7:30-8:00~ Blue Class comes in, puts away their backpacks and gathers their materials and goes to math. Green class comes in eats breakfast, does warm-up, restroom. Announcements.
8:00-9:30~ Whole Class teach Green Class. 
9:30-9:35~ Clean Up/Restroom/Switch Classes
9:30-11:00~ Whole Class teach Blue Class. 
11:05-11:35~ LUNCH
12:50-2:30~ SMALL GROUP/Workshop time 
2:30-2:35~ Clean up/Go back to homeroom
2:35-2:50~ RECESS
2:55-3:10~ Pick Up/Pack Up/Get ready to go home.

The way we work our small groups is with six 15 minute rotations each day. We had to schedule each student for each rotation, each day something different so they don't get bored (and we won't have to recreate them every other few weeks!) Each child has 3 rotations of math focus activities in the math class class and 3 rotations of reading focus in the reading class. When they are scheduled to meet with us their schedule says "Meet with Mrs. Teel" and that tells them to come to my small group table. We also scheduled in our specialists (math and reading). They meet with them for 30 minutes - so rotations 1 & 2 a students card may say "Meet with Mrs. Castleberry" so that tells them to go to her for those 2 rotations.

The kids have to be responsible. They HAVE to know where to go and what to do without needing the teachers help. I think is was best that we started this at the end of the 1st 9 weeks. That way we had to first 8 weeks to teach them what are stations are and the expectations while they are there. It helped make the transition into this new routine seamless and relatively painless. The kids knew what to do and when to do it. They knew where to go and how they were expected to behave. The students were already use to do any I/C (incomplete) work before going to their stations, so that worked out easy peasy! :) 

Here is a quick look at the necklace schedules that we created for each student to wear during small group time. We made them necklaces so they can wear them and not lose them!

If you have any questions about how this works or more details just leave me a comment!

I will post more pictures of this time in action soon. :)  

Happy Teaching Friends!! 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Community and Mapping Fun!!

I blogged earlier about our first PBL -- "New School Brochure" (which ties our community and mapping lessons together) and thought I would back up and let y'all know what we did to build up to this project. 

COMMUNITY- After spending the first couple weeks talking about what a community is, beginning with our own classroom community! We went over rules and procedures and how they help keep our classroom community a safe place to be. We also discussed how we each bring something special and unique to our community. 
MAPPING- At the same time we were discussing mapping. We read "Me on a Map" and created little flip books of where we are on the map, beginning with our planet and ending with our address. I asked the kids if an alien friend from another planet how would they find you? The students also created detailed maps of their homes. 

COMMUNITY- We then moved on to town communities by reading "Boom Town" (a wonderful story about a family who move for the gold rush to a place with nothing and she begins making and selling pies while convincing others to open up shops like stables, banks, schools, churches....). 
MAPPING- The kids created their own town maps with streets and different businesses, schools, churches, neighborhoods and ect. On the back of their maps they had to say why that place on their map was important to have in a community. 

**This really bridged the two together and prepared them for the project**

We learned about compasses. Each student got a compass and we walked around the school finding out which way the nurse's clinic faced, what direction the office was in and ect. The kids LOVED it!!!! They were so transfixed on their compasses and watching them move with each turn that they were seriously running into walls and each other!! They caught on quickly after the experienced the compasses hands-on. 

PROJECT TIME! See my PBL post: 
to learn more about how I implemented our first PBL in our classroom! 

Happy Teaching Friends!

PBL: "New to School Brochure"

Ah... our first PBL (project based learning) task. I always have a love/hate relationship with the first project. This is usually the first time they are doing a PBL where they are working in groups and have to rely on each other (a task hard for most adults to do much less 8 year olds...) and they are also use to having examples galore and struggle with the concept "this is YOUR project, if you want to use markers you can! If you want to use tape vs glue you CAN!" oh the freedom... their little brains just can't wrap around it!! BUT-- I do love seeing their smiling faces and sense of accomplishment after the first project. They are always SO SO SO proud of what they have created and I am SO SO SO proud and amazed at what they learned. It is an amazing experience. 

For this FIRST project our sweet counselor came in and presented the "problem" to the kiddos. 

PROBLEM/QUESTION- "We have many new students and families that aren't only new to our school but also new to the community. So the kids don't only know their way around their new school but also know nothing about their new town! How can we effectively let them know about our new school and our community along with a map of our school so they don't feel so nervous?"

Since this is the first project we guided them to the idea of a brochure or pamphlet with the school map on the inside with some information about our school and community on the outer flaps. 
***(Before they were presented with this problem we had been spending the past few weeks talking about our community and mapping skills.)*** 

FIRST- We went over the rubric and the expectations for their brochures and maps of the school. 

SECOND- I broke them into their groups. They created their contract while discussing how they will resolve problems that arise and how they will treat each other. The group members and I signed their contract. 

THIRD- We toured the school collecting all the information we would need for their maps. Room numbers, teacher names, the hallway numbers, the order of the rooms... ect. (This was very frustrating for the kids and we left a trail of tears down the hallways both mine and the children's...) 

FOURTH- I gave them a full sized poster board, with a blank map of the school already drawn on it. 
This wasn't originally the plan but after we had our Tour of Tears, I desperately needed to modify some -- for my own sanity!! This map they will do together and will act as the "rough draft" for their published maps on the actual brochures. 

FIFTH- the kids created their legend and compass rose. They also numbered the rooms and added the teacher names along with adding parking lots, pick up routes and whatever else they deemed important on their maps. Some added where the fish tank is while others thought the Lost and Found was an important place to know about! :) 
***This is where we are currently at in this process***
 The pink card is a "Question Card", a brilliant idea I heard about at a training this summer.
Each group gets 4 of these each time we work on the project. They have to turn in a card each time they ask ANY question, even to go to the restroom. They have to ALL agree to use the card. BEFORE we begin our work that day I answer every single question they have along with going to the restroom together, so they usually don't have to use the cards. This does put a stop to the "Can I use markers? What kind of glue am I suppose to use?" type questions quickly!  

SIXTH- Next week the kids will take their giant posters over to math class where they will add the scale (3 feet = 1 inch) to their maps. Here is where we will also throw a "twist" to the students. They will be presented with a "what if..." What if a legally blind student came and they needs to know the number of steps it took to get from one place to the next. Students will do some math by counting their steps for a bit down a hallway then predicting how many total it will take to get to the end. 

SEVENTH- Back in my classroom they will be researching the community and drafting what information they want to include in their brochures and type it out. 

EIGHTH- They will then each receive a legal sized piece of copy paper with their typed info on the flap and a blank map of the school on the inside. They will then copy what their rough draft map from the poster onto the copy paper map. Each student will receive their own map to publish. 

NINTH- I somehow copy these to create their brochures... I will probably just take their brochures to a place with a color copier and let them create the brochures! 

TENTH- Project OVER! Kids present their brochures to our counselor for our new students and families to enjoy!!! :) 

** I will add new pictures as we continue and hopefully finish smoothly!! **


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*** This project idea came from:
AN AMAZING SITE with GREAT PBL ideas with complete rubrics that are in a word document so they can be easily modified to fit your kids!!***

Happy Teaching Friends!

"My Super Hero" Imaginative Story with the PLOT mountain

We love writing in room 201! We are always taking a writing piece all the way through the process --
Once we finish one, we begin another the next day! I always try to make them fun and build the kids up so they are so excited to begin. 

One thing I also do is try to always show the connection between reading and writing to the students so they can see that we are READING a book that someone WROTE. One way I do this is the week we are beginning a new writing piece, we will read a story that is in the same genre and do a story map over that book. Then later that week when we begin our new paper we use the same story map for our pre-writing. This way they see that their writing needs to include all the same parts that the book did -- strong characters, a problem and solution, a clear beginning, middle and end, an exciting plot.

One of the first papers we did this year was a superhero imaginative story. The kids learned about plot and the parts of the plot mountain. Below you can see the story maps I used. When we used these with books I just deleted the super hero pictures and title so it was just plain and could be used with any story. I teach two different classes -- both on two totally different levels. The first one is the story map I used with my lower class, much simpler. The other one I used with my higher group and has all the correct plot mountain lingo. 

**This looked alot better in Word... google drive messed it up a bit, but you get the general idea**

The day we began our paper I wore my superhero skirt and lightening bolt earring (I think I'm Ms. Frizzle...) and did an onomatopoeia mini-lesson. They were SO excited to use all the action words in their stories. 

Day one I let them choose which superhero they wanted to use for their main character. We did discuss how even though some of the super heroes resemble Super Man or The Hulk they couldn't use those names or the adventures they go on in the movies and books -- that would be plagiarism! They also began their
 pre-writing (see worksheet above) 

After pre-writing comes drafting then editing with the red pen and revising with the blue! 

After revising and editing comes PUBLISHING!
 The kids love to publish because they get to use colorful pens!!
Check out this post to read more about my colorful pens:

I let them use the colorful pens to write their onomatopoeia words too!  

The paper was a success and a ton of fun!! Now it's time for a biography paper.... 

Happy Teaching Friends!! 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Already seeing STAARS!

Oh the STAAR test!!

If you teach a STAAR or state assessed grade you know how stressful it can be. You don't want to assess them to death but you want to make sure that they are mastering the skills and know their testing strategies -- especially if you teach 3rd grade, which is the first year these babies are taking the State test and are expected to bubble in their own answer key.........
and it takes a LOT of practice to master the difficult skill of bubbling!! :)

 I can't tell you how many times I have done really fun, engaging, hands on activities thinking they have it down!! -- BUT then I assessed them and they bombed it when they had to do it paper/pencil style. 

It is important that the students see it "paper/pencil" style because that is what the STAAR test is... but it is also important to have interactive lessons that the kids can get their hands on and take and do. I am BIG on project based learning and giving them some control over their own learning and how they learn it! 

Over the summer I went to a training where the speaker shared one good idea some ideas - an idea that seems like it could really help bridge hands on learning to pencil/paper assessing. 

She said that before you teach a new topic to post a question, the type of question the kids would see on the STAAR test (with the answers covered) and tell them:

"We are learning about this because you will be expected to answer a question like this..."

So, I created this Guiding Question poster that I will use to display questions in STAAR format for the kids to ponder during our lesson/activity. As you can see, I am introducing my STAAR strategies through this, which is really just an added bonus!! Afterwards, I put the answer choices up on the Elmo and we discuss what the correct answer is and how we can use what we learned during the lesson to answer the question. 

SO far it has been going really well and it provide my kids with some prior knowledge of the strategies when we did our first practice passage today! 

Two years ago when STAAR was first given, our reading specialist and I sat down, knowing that the STAAR test would be more rigorous, with more inferencing and questions that involve the students needing to "think" instead of just "remembering" we came up with the idea of using COVER UP CARDS! 
I absolutely LOVE them. The kids read the passage and when they get to the questions they use their cover-up cards to cover up the answer choices. This give the students time to really think about the question without being distracted or tempted to just choose an answer without really reading all the choices. I expect my students to write their "mental answer" above the question before they even look at the answer choices. This is useful because there usually are 2 choices that could be the answer or are "tricky ones" and it helps keep them focused on what they originally thought, keeping them from second guessing.  

Here is an example from one of my student's work from today.
You can see they highlighted their key words and did their mental answering! :)

Happy Teaching Friends!! 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Classroom Incentives

This year I am trying something different with my incentives and I am really excited about it!

Using Mel B.'s amazing coupons found HERE!!

First let me tell you the coupons are AMAZING!! I am using most of them as individual prizes the kids can cash their whammies in for along with the same old trustee prizes I just can't let go of like treasure box, special pencils, and sit where ever you want for a day. I separated the coupons into two tubs because to me some seemed more special than others like the "Get out Jail" one where the kids can take their recess back, so naturally those cost more whammies!!

The other coupons I couldn't really use individually like extra recess time, while some seemed more appropriate for whole class like dance party and eat outdoors (I just had this visual of just one kid cashing in their dance party coupon and dancing away while the rest of us just keep working... HAHA!) Anyways- the coupons that would work better whole class for me went down on this poster board and in the lamination machine. 

Then came the fun part!! I had told my students during the first week that for their whole class incentive they would earn marbles for compliments they receive in the hallways or when they are all on task. After they get so many marbles (in our case fill the little vase up) they will get to scratch off a square to reveal a certain prize! After the first week one of my classes has already filled half their vase up so I decided I better actually make this poster ASAP instead of just talking about it!! Terrible, I know!! 

So, using a "recipe" I had seen made my own scratch off paint using soap and paint. I carefully painted my squares (I didn't have any painter's tape on hand like her post so wisely recommends...) along with a little spot of yellow off to the side to test it after it dries, plugged in the fan and crossed my fingers it works! 

It did! PERFECTLY!! My kids are going to be SOO excited come tomorrow morning when they see it hanging in it new home all ready to be scratched off!! 

A part of me thinks since I laminated it any paint would of scratched off, but the soap and paint mixed helps it come off super duper easy!! 

NO Time for all that?? That is ok!
Order these scratch off stickers instead!! You can't beat 7.50!!

Using those Scratch Off stickers works just as well!!!
Read about this incentive HERE!!
Happy teaching friends!!